Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Berlin - Part I: En route

I am quickly learning that although most European cities are much more accessible by train or on foot, there are some advantages to having these destinations be a car ride away.  When you get there by car, not only are you on your own schedule (and you can pack as much crap as your car will allow), but you also get to take whichever route suites your fancy or pick detours to those places you would never otherwise see...  We had decided ahead of time that we were going to take a minor detour on our way up to Berlin to visit the small town, Straupitz, where Big R's great-great-grandfather was born (our visit to Straupitz is a surprise for his grandmother, so if you are on Big R's side of the family - shhhhhhhh).  This small town sits just to the southeast of Berlin. This detour took us along a route that passes through Dresden, so Big R thought it would be a great place to stop for lunch.

Dresden is one of those places that I would assume most people would not consider a must-see.  I was definitely one of those people.  When Big R mentioned it, I imagined a run-down city part of former East Germany and completely leveled by WWII.  I stand corrected, man, do I ever stand corrected... Big R was quick to make sure I understood that Dresden was considered one of the most beautiful cities in Germany.  Really?  Who knew?!  So I started reading about it, and it soon became a must-see in my mind.  In fact, I was worried we'd get to Dresden and not want to leave.

Since we were just stopping by to take a peek at this beautiful city, we drove straight for the Allstadt (or old city) where so much of the historic buildings and churches had been restored.  There were still scars left behind on the buildings reminding visitors of the brutal history this area had seen, but honestly, you had to remind yourself that Dresden was decimated in the war.

Once we meandered our way into the old city, we found a parking garage directly below the old square (how cool is it that you can park underneath the cities here?).  Fall is definitely here, so we bundled up and started our search for lunch through the beautiful city.  We opted out of bringing a stroller or backpack and just let little r explore on foot with us.  That ended up being a lot of fun...for HIM!  It was cute to watch him explore and take it all in at his own pace, and my arms got an awesome workout in the process...

We located an old church that had been restored after the war, and we paid to be able to walk to the top of the dome. Little r walked nearly all the steps on his own - very impressive.  The views up top were breathtaking.  

Lunch was easy - we stuck to the old German standby and had bratwurst and shared a local brew before trekking on to more sites through the allstadt.  I couldn't believe how charming and romantic Dresden was, and the thought kept going through my mind "why did we bomb this place?".  Seriously, most of the decisions we made to bomb cities in WWII are a complete mystery to me.  I am so thankful that the people in Germany had so much pride in their homeland that they rebuilt it all (a theme that struck home throughout our entire weekend).  I also had to keep reminding myself that this was just a short stop on our trip to Berlin, a little peek if you will, and that we are DEFINITELY coming back.  (I'm getting myself into a lot of trouble being as every place I visit with Big R seems to follow with the comment, "we have to come back" - too much to see, and so little time...)

Per usual, Big R got some amazing pictures during our time in Dresden.

On the way out, we made sure to hit up Starbucks.  Haha, yep, there are some things we just can't seem to leave behind, and Starbucks is randomly a welcome site especially when it's a little nippy outside.  Nothing against German coffee, but as much as I love it here, the occasional reminder of home is a comfortable thing...

A short drive down the road, and we came to Straupitz... Oh, and we had a fairly exciting exit from Dresden where the road closed behind us with Polezei sirens blocking the streets!  We are clueless what that was all about, but also thankful we snuck out literally just ahead of the blockade... I digress... Straupitz is a very small little rural town in north eastern Germany.  It sits on the edge of a nature preserve called the Spreewald (or Spree forest - Spree is the name of the major river that flows through Berlin), so although it is home to less than 1,000 people, it has a tourist draw from nature enthusiasts from all over Germany.  The town is quaint, and honestly ain't got a whole lot goin' on there, but it was really fun for Big R to see the place where his great-great-grandfather was born, and we are hoping his grandmother loves the pictures as much as he enjoyed taking them. His favorite moment was most certainly signing the book in the Lutheran church...

Our detour was a great start to an amazing weekend.  Stay tuned for Part II and more about our trip to Berlin...

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